The sultan, who has held the posts of prime minister, defence minister, finance minister, university rector, police chief and defender of the faith since 1967, has never encouraged the emergence of diverse news media.
By the end of 2003, the authorities had still not had occasion to use the press law adopted in 2001 which provides for sentences of up to three years in prison for journalists who report "false news." The local news media contained virtually no criticism of the government. A reader’s letter criticising the authorities could very occasionally be found in one of the half-dozen state and privately-owned publications.
But the sultan’s subjects could see a range of cable TV stations, including the BBC, whose programmes contrasted with the stiffness of Brunei’s sole, state-run TV channel. The apparently unhindered growth of the Internet made it impossible to apply provisions for the censorship of material offensive to Islam or the royal family. Brunei’s only daily paper is the Borneo Bulletin, which has an online version. It carries a picture of the sultan or news about him on its front page nearly every day.